Constant shelter in a sea of constant change
I find myself thinking a lot about change recently for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's the month of May, which means that for many, big changes are just over the horizon. Lots of people are getting ready to move on, leaving college for the year, or forever, and embarking on the new thing. The economy has many in a state of change as well, ranging from the changing of buying habits to the changing of jobs, perhaps housing situations, even geography. The world is changing. Our relationships are changing. Our neighborhoods are changing. Our bodies are changing. As we grow older, the dynamics of relationships with our spouses, parents, and children all change. Our emotions are changing. This is the way it is.
In this sea of change, God drops the declaration that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We've sometimes extrapolated, from this and a few other verses, that God doesn't change at all - what we call the doctrine of immutability. This doctrine creates questions for some of us, because the reality is that much has changed regarding how humanity relates to God. He's not in the habit of talking to people anymore, as happened with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and so many more. He's approachable in a different way because God doesn't live behind a curtain in the temple anymore. He's directly accessible to all people everywhere, 24/7, come, on the basis of Christ's work on the cross, as you are. He doesn't guide us with a cloud by day and fire by night anymore. He doesn't invoke genocide anymore. He doesn't insist that we avoid wearing wool and linen together anymore.
In a world of constant change, adaptability is important, and I find that what helps me adapt to the many changes that are real in my life (changing body as I age, changing relationships, changing world, changing economics, changing responsibilities) is the notion that there's a place where I can go and find things the same every time. So it's important for me to know the sense in which God doesn't change because I bank on this as a source of security.
How does God not change? The proper answer would be a book, not a blog, but the blog answer is nothing more than a word picture. I'm writing this entry from a tiny cabin in the woods, where I go to write, pray, cook, read. It's made of logs cut down from the property on which it resides and so the walls are solid, substantial, sturdy. Of course, those logs will change. Someday they might burn to the ground, and if that doesn't happen, they'll surely rot away. So this isn't a precise picture of immutability. But it is an approximation.
For the last few years, as I've taken up writing as a hobby (another change, partly because I can't climb as much anymore, another change), I've headed up here every once in a while. Every time, it's been a shelter for me. Sometimes it's been extra cold. Sometimes, in the heat of the summer, pleasantly cool. Little things change - pipes have cracked, requiring care. Right now the heat stove doesn't light. But it has been, every time I've come here, shelter.
Jesus invites us to come to Him as shelter. He tells us that, when we learn to be with Him in intimacy, we will find rest for our souls. He says it as a promise, as if we'll find it every time. He'll be our shelter, from storms, from doubts, from weariness, from failure, from the pain of shattered dreams, from the constant changes that are our lives. He is the door, the shelter, the place of rest. And this doesn't change. In the book of Hebrews we're told to come boldly, confident that acceptance awaits us. Like a sturdy log cabin, He's always available as shelter.
I'll leave the cabin in a few hours - back to the city, back to other responsibilities, back to the sea of change we're all trying to navigate in tact. But in the quiet of this morning, as I've pondered the gift of shelter, I've realized that I've a greater, more lasting, perfectly unchanging shelter, in Christ. Learning to live in the rest of that shelter is, perhaps, the most important thing I will ever learn, or teach.